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This Mumbai-based collective is reviving performance art through personalised storytelling 

Hema Vaishnavi
10th Jan 2018
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Kommune is a collective of storytellers, poets, spoken word poets and musicians, who are reviving the art of live performance through shared experiences

Our experiences and stories define who we are. Personal stories help us see beyond the ordinary, and reveals a person’s dreams, fears, inflictions, hopes and aspirations.

Kommune was founded on the premise that informal story-telling sessions would help people open up and share their experiences over food and drink.

Personalised story-telling

Kommune began unofficially around three years ago. It was started by radio jockey and theatre actor, Roshan Abbas, seasoned actor-VJ-TV anchor Gaurav Kapoor, and an independent musician-director Ankur Tiwari. 

The first show saw 10 friends get together in a Varsova apartment, where the conversation revolved around their real-life stories.

The storytellers
“Since then, I toyed with the idea of doing this on a monthly basis, so from ten people we moved to a bigger audience and gathering. We moved to a yoga studio, and then to fitness centres. Our numbers swelled from ten to thirty people, within the first seven months,"says Roshan Abbas.

"We were finding new audiences each time. We were slowly establishing ourselves, as we began to put together proper shows,” he adds.

From personalised stories, Kommune began its foray into other fields of slam poetry, spoken word, beat poetry performances, and performances in Hindi. Kommune soon started hosting ticketed events at coffee shops, yoga studios, and fitness centres.

A performance collective

“Two years ago, we conducted our first professional show on January 15, 2015, 'The Storytellers’. We had an audience of 200 people— a mix of new story-tellers including television personalities like Sandhya Mridul, Mini Mathur, and select storytellers who had been with Kommune for a long time,” says Roshan Abbas.

Kommune grew from being ‘a casual evening of story-telling’ to a space where any performance could be staged. Today the organisation has over 113K followers on its Facebook page and 157K subscribers on YouTube.

“When I came to Mumbai, I would hunt for the best spoken word acts and poetry slams happening across the city. We are a performance collective and as a group of people who hold the idea of performance art close to our hearts. We are constantly trying to find the next big thing in our respective fields,” says Shamir Reuben, Head of Content and Social Media at Kommune.

Ankur who is a musician wants to scout for music talents, Shamir wants to discover child talents and give them the space they deserve, and Tess Joseph is in search of promising story-tellers in the city.

Kommune is emphatic about the performance being a life-story. The charm of the collective is a performer on stage always tells his own personal story.

Kommune, which is currently active in Mumbai has staged performances in cities across the country, including Jaipur, Delhi, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad. In addition to creating spaces for performances, it has also conducted about a dozen story-telling workshops till date.

Talking about the kind of stories that come to them, Shamir says, “The story could come from anywhere. Most people like to write about love, travel, and relationships, but there are also those who like to share their experiences on personal challenges, including health issues."

"We had a girl who wrote to us about a disease that affects her everyday life. These are stories we want to bring to the forefront, because people are not aware of them,” he adds.

To perform with Kommune, all you have to do is write your real-life story under 750 words or a voice note under five minutes. This could be in the form of ghazals, Hindi songs, English compositions, spoken word and poetry, or even dance.

Branching out

Beatmap, dubbed as the ‘Airbnb’ for artists, is a digital platform incubated by Kommune to act as a marketplace for performance artists.

The platform, which is currently under development is slated to launch on Android, iOS and web platforms soon.

Kommune also conducts curated soft skills workshops for corporate entities. It also released The Living Room, its first ever web-series on Amazon Prime Video.

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